Air India’s pilots test positive for coronavirus

In yet another setback, 60 Air India pilots who flew repatriation flights to bring back Indians stranded abroad have tested positive for coronavirus, the airline has said in a letter to the government.

The Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indians came “with a heavy price to pay for those on the frontline. As of date, at least 60 plus pilots have been tested Covid positive,” senior pilots of the national carrier have stated, in the letter addressed to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri.

“This has had a ‘devastating effect’ on their family members,” said the letter.

The pilots are already suffering on account of the drastic salary cuts. The government decision to reduce the salary of pilots by up to 75% is “discriminatory, disproportionate and arbitrary and could have a disastrous psychological impact which could trigger ‘desperate and extreme acts,’ as has been repeatedly proven many times in the past,” warned the senior pilots.

The airline on Thursday issued a statement that unlike other airlines that have laid off a large number of workers, no employee of Air India will lose their job.

“Recent decisions of the Air India board regarding rationalization of staff cost were reviewed in a meeting at the Ministry of Civil Aviation this evening. The meeting reiterated that unlike other carriers which have laid off a large number of their employees, no employee of Air India will be laid off,” the national carrier said on Twitter.

“There has been no reduction in the basic pay, DA (dearness allowance) and HRA (house rent allowance) of any category of employees. The rationalization of allowances had to be implemented on account of the difficult financial condition of the airline that was exacerbated by COVID-19,” Air India said.

The flying crew will be paid on the basis of the actual number of hours flown, it added.

“As domestic and international operations expand to reach pre-COVID levels and the financial position of Air India improves, the rationalization of allowances will be reviewed,” the airline said.